And with that, we get to my favorite Mario Party game, ranked #1…Mario Party 2. I fell in love with Mario Party 2 pretty much from the get-go. I was already riding the high from Mario Party 1 and with the implementation of new boards, new minigames, a new item system, and various improvements to the rough-around-the-edges Mario Party 1 formula, there was very little that I honestly feel like this game got wrong. It has remained not only my favorite Mario Party game for over 16 years now, but also one of my all-time favorite Nintendo 64 games. However, I can glorify this game all day if I wanted to, so let’s get to the actual analysis, shall we?
First up we have the boards, and the one thing I will say is I am a little disappointed by the fact that this game only has six boards compared to eight original boards of Mario Party 1. However, I can’t really say this is a big glaring disadvantage of Mario Party 2 just for the sole fact that Mario Party 1 was the only game to achieve the feat of having eight boards in one game. What MP2 lacks in quantity though, it definitely makes up for it in quality as every board is unique and pretty diverse in its theme and content. After looking at screenshots, the boards are also a lot bigger than the Mario Party 1 variants, which may be another reason why the board roster was smaller. However, it’s a good thing these boards are bigger because with the addition of new spaces, new board events, and the newly introduced item system; a lot of space needed to be filled. Each board is a representation of a different type of theme or trope you can find in most media. A pirate theme, a western theme, a mystical theme, a horror theme and a space theme. Bowser also gets his own theme again as well, so the final board is pretty much what you would expect Bowser Land to be like. I think the thing that I really dig about these boards though is the fact that game quite literally puts you in these worlds to the point where you are living out the reality of each board. In Pirate Land you skim the shores of several beaches looking for treasure, in Horror Land you navigate a spooky forest filled to the brim with ghostly creatures, and even in Mystery Land, you get the feeling that you are wandering around just trying to figure out what the hell will happen next. Even the Mario characters themselves get into the spirit of the boards as all the playable characters wear little costumes representing the board you are playing on, and each board has a story centered around the notion of Bowser causing trouble and you four battling to earn the star power to stop him. In fact, the winner of each game will have a cutscene that shows them battling and beating Bowser at the very end of the game, which is always a joy to watch, no matter how many times you see them. It may not seem like much, but it shows that the developers really cared about putting a lot of charm into this title and that is something that is definitely not lost on me.
This was also the first Mario Party game to introduce items. Mario Party 1 had a few different dice blocks you could purchase that would randomly appear in the games sometimes, but this game had items you could win or obtain to make your journey around the board a lot easier. You had mushrooms to give yourself a second dice block to move, skeleton keys to open doors for shortcuts around the board, warp blocks to trade places with other players, plunder chests to steal items, dueling gloves to challenge other players to a minigame for their coins and several others that can give you a nice little boost when you may need it the most. The one downside many people see about this though is that unlike other Mario Party games, you can only hold one item at a time. I personally disagree with this statement. Yeah, having multiple items would be nice, but I don’t think Mario Party 2 needed to have that feature. There are plenty of item shops around the boards and plenty of item minigame spaces too, to the point where I feel like having only one item slot isn’t really much of an inconvenience. However, at that point it all comes down to preference anyway, so I can’t really say one way is necessarily better than the other, as I see the convenience of having 3 items, but at the same time, the one item slot never personally bothered me either. So with some solid boards and a well-implemented item system, the board game play is absolutely fantastic. I will say that Mystery Land is probably one of the weaker boards in the series though, just because like Wario’s Battle Canyon from Mario Party 1, it relies a bit on island hopping and getting lucky enough to get the right dice roll to get off an island you might be potentially stuck on. But again, far from the worst board in the series and every Mario Party game has a stinker in there somewhere.
Now let’s move on to the minigames. If you are a seasoned Mario Party 1 veteran, you will notice that there are some games that get redone in Mario Party 2. Most of the changes were purely cosmetic, but for the most part, every game does feel somewhat different in the Mario Party 2 engine and in many of the cases, better as a result. However, not to only praise the remixed games because Mario Party 2 also introduced a lot of very cool new games as well. Shell Shocked, Lights Out, Filet Relay, Look Away, Sky Pilots…the list goes on. I think what pleases me most is just seeing all the different types of minigames. You have your races, your battles, your puzzles, your tests of relexes…there’s even a game where you count enemies for crying out loud, and they’re all for the most part pretty solid. However, as expected, the game does have its weak points. Sneak N Snore, Rakin Em In, Shock Drop or Roll; yeah, I’d be lying if I said this game’s minigames were flawless. Thankfully I can’t say that about any of the Mario Party games. However, much like Mario Party 1, it did introduce a lot of classics and was a really nice line-up.
Mario Party 2 is much like Mario Party 1 when it comes to side content. In fact, I’d almost say it’s entirely the same. They have another Mini-Game Stadium board and Mini-Game Coaster is essentially Mini-Game Island Version Two. Mini-Game Coaster is pretty challenging, and when you get to the later levels of the Hard course, it can get a little frustrating, but the first time I beat it on Hard Mode, it was definitely one of those very memorable moments in gaming for me and I feel the same way every time I get to it. Like in Mario Party 1, you could also buy the minigames and play them as much as you want in Mini-Game Park. Unlike Mario Party 1 though, the games are all very affordable and don’t take the same amount of grinding that Mario Party 1 did. There isn’t much to unlock, but I think that could also be a good thing because you can easily get everything out of the gate and have a lot to explore on your own time. It doesn’t match Mario Party 5’s extra content, but it’s very solid for what’s there.
So yeah, that’s why Mario Party 2 is my favorite Mario Party game. It does so many things right to the point where I can’t really even be too negative about the things it got wrong. I think in a list like this, that’s probably the sign of a masterpiece to come, so whenever someone asks me what my favorite Mario Party game is, I will always answer Mario Party 2.